FIVE-O YOUR ENTHUSIASM (9)
April 29, 2021
One in a series of 25 enthusiastic posts, contributed by 25 HILOBROW friends and regulars, on the topic of our favorite TV shows of the Sixties (in our periodization: 1964–1973).
MANNIX | 1967–1973 seasons
All that mattered to me about Mannix, perhaps the first show that I can remember watching regularly, was eight seconds of its credit sequence.
First comes an opening fanfare over boxed split-screen images of Mike Connors, the actor who played private eye Joe Mannix, doing TV-hero things: running up stairs, driving a jeep, riding some sort of conveyor belt uphill in a crouch as if finally realizing a lifelong wish to find out what it would like to be a load of coal. Nothing there for me so far, but now come the eight seconds.
As Lalo Schifrin’s theme music settles into a chugging 3/4 groove and the punchy main melody enters, the camera closes from behind on Connors running across a many-girdered bridge. The screen breaks into nine boxes. The main shot occupies the middle box, above and below and on either side of it are marginal sections of this main shot that are almost but not quite continuous with it in action and lighting, the lower right corner box contains a reverse shot of Mannix running toward the camera, and the other three corner boxes are beguilingly black. It’s an exploded cubist rendition of a standard action shot, strange and pregnant with promise, mystery, invitation. I understood it to say Who cares why this fool is running again? Look at the world! Let’s go there.
What follows makes clear that this show isn’t likely to make good on those eight seconds’ promise. The credit sequence now cuts to Connors running away from a helicopter, then there’s more driving, a dive-and-roll with gun, a steer-killing punch, swimming, more running. He was always running somewhere, usually wearing a sport jacket made of fabric so thick that, as one YouTube wag puts it, it appeared to be fashioned from carpet remnants. During the contemplative middle movement of the theme song, Connors makes a characteristic face in closeup that’s meant to seem tough and investigative but instead conveys confusion. An appearance by the smiling Gail Fisher as his loyal secretary, Peggy, momentarily relieves the tedium of watching an actor pretend to do manly stuff, but it’s already too late. The credit sequence has told you everything about the episode that will follow: an endless round of Connors driving, parking, getting out of his car, walking into a building, speaking decisively on the phone, walking out of a building, getting back in his car and zooming off, getting shot (which happened 17 times over the show’s 8-season run), getting beat up (55 times). Mannix drew criticism for its violence, but none of that violence ever felt like anything other than actors going through the motions dictated by scripts.
The eight-second fragment of the credit sequence is inscribed DNA-deep in me because every week it seemed for the space of a single slow in-and-out breath as if this might be the episode in which Mannix finally took us somewhere vivid and meaningful and worth going to. That the show never accomplished any such thing was beside the point. If even the makers of Mannix were capable of producing eight seconds of TV that said Look at the world! then others could produce more seconds, even minutes, of other stuff, from Rocky and Bullwinkle to Kung Fu, that said it. For me, entering the age of discovery, those eight seconds of Mannix‘s credit sequence felt like the cracking-open of a portal.
FIVE-O YOUR ENTHUSIASM: INTRODUCTION by Josh Glenn | Lynn Peril on DARK SHADOWS (1966–1971) | Mark Kingwell on THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E. (1964–1968) | Elizabeth Foy Larsen on I DREAM OF JEANNIE (1965–1970) | Luc Sante on SECRET AGENT/DANGER MAN (1964–1968 seasons) | Erin M. Routson on THE PATTY DUKE SHOW (1963–1966 run) | Gordon Dahlquist on HAWAII FIVE-O (1968–1973 seasons) | Annie Nocenti on GET SMART (1965–1970) | Sara Driver on THE ADDAMS FAMILY (1964–1966) | Carlo Rotella on MANNIX (1967–1973 seasons) | Adam McGovern on JULIA (1968–1971) | Mimi Lipson on THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW (1970–1973 seasons) | Josh Glenn on BATMAN (1966–1968) | Tom Nealon on HOGAN’S HEROES (1965–1971) | Miranda Mellis on THE ODD COUPLE (1970–1973 seasons) | Peggy Nelson on GILLIGAN’S ISLAND (1964–1967) | Susan Roe on THE BRADY BUNCH (1969–1973 seasons) | Michael Grasso on UFO (1970–1973) | Richard McKenna on DOOMWATCH (1970–1972) | Adrienne Crew on BEWITCHED (1964–1972) | Michael Lewy on STAR TREK (1966–1969) | Greg Rowland on THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY (1970–1973 seasons) | David Smay on THE MONKEES (1966–1968) | Vijay Parthasarathy on THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW (1964–1966 seasons) | Carl Wilson on THE CAROL BURNETT SHOW (1967–1973 seasons) | Jessamyn West on EMERGENCY! (1972–1973 seasons).
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